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Old 01-18-2015, 09:21 PM   #1
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The drain pipe from my septic tank isn't draining... is this a problem?


I really have no idea how old the septic tank is, but the house was built in the 60's... it may or may not be the original one, but if it has been replaced i would guess it was in the 80's or early 90's.


I had to clear a clog, and while using a garden hose in a cleanout hole (which is only about a half a foot from where it enters the septic tank), i noticed that the water was pooling slightly in the pipe where it enters the septic tank. When i shut the water off, a small amount would remain standing, and after about 3 or 4 minutes it would slowly clear out.



Upon seeing this i assumed that the septic tank was full, and the water was having to drain out of the overflow drain (or whatever you call it). To test this i put the garden hose back in, turned it on, and went out to the ditch (about 150 ft from the house) to check it. I let the garden hose run for about 5 minutes, and i never saw any water come out of the drainage pipe BUT it also never filled up back at the cleanout hole where the pipe enters the septic tank.



So the water is backing up just slightly at the cleanout hole, but it is still draining enough (somewhere) so that a garden hose wont cause it to overfill.


I suspect that the drain pipe is clogged at the septic tank. And this all assumes that the septic tank is full, which i am basing on the water backing up slightly where it goes into the tank.



I dont know a lot about septic tanks, so can anyone tell me if it sounds like the tank is full, where the water might be going, and if it is a big issue. It hasn't been inspected any time recently so it could have been like this for a month or 5 years for all i know.


Picture


Thanks!

Edit: I forgot to mention that another reason i think the tank may be full is because when i push the garden hose in the pipe down to where the pipe hits the cement structure, i dont hear running water... i immediately hear silence, like what would happen if you stuck the hose in a big bucket of water.

This leads me to believe that the hose is under water at that point. I am assuming that this, plus the water slightly backing up at the entrance means that the tank is full... but for all i know that is normal behavior.

Last edited by tireshark; 01-18-2015 at 09:47 PM.
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Old 01-18-2015, 11:04 PM   #2
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I assume we're talking about a gravity feed septic tank (concrete likely if it's "of age") with a leach field, which, depending on the actual era, could be of various materials. Either way, I'd say the short answer is that your septic tank is always "full", or perhaps a better term is at working capacity. Actual full, as in up to the very top of the tank, would be a problem indeed. That's when backflow into your home can occur and there is a major problem, ranging from a sediment saturated tank and or leach field or some other form of blockage. The sewage line from home to tank enters at an elevation near the top of the tank. The line out to your leach field is somewhat lower. So fluid stands at the height of the outflow line when the system is idle. Flush a toilet, run a sink, our introduce flow from your garden hose, and the "new" inflow causes gravity flow out the lower pipe ... on the way to your leach field. From idle to active, the actual elevation inside the septic tank does not really vary. As you spray from the hose, you would not expect to see that water exiting anywhere, as long as all components are functioning problem. Unless I'm not understanding something in your explanation, I'd guess things are working okay. Since your septic tank is a sediment settling and decomposition chamber, an expert pumping company can service your tank and give you an idea of overall performance based on the contents and appearance. With careful use and proper chemistry, it's theoretically possible for septic systems to sustain without pumping for ages. That rarely happens for many reasons, but the fact that it's possible gives evidence that there is nothing to fill up, like a holding tank.
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Old 01-19-2015, 07:45 AM   #3
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OK, thanks for the input zippenbye, that makes a lot of sense.

I'll think about getting a company to inspect/service it sometime soon, as there's no telling how long it's been since the last one and it probably could use it.

Thanks again!
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Old 01-19-2015, 08:31 AM   #4
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Ayuh,... The Clean out hole in the picture, looks more like a hole rotted into iron pipe, not a proper clean out,....
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Old 01-19-2015, 08:41 AM   #5
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That tank should have been pump out at least every 5 years, while it's being pumped there suppose to be watching to see if the water from the leach field is running back into the tank.
If so it could be a sign of bigger issues.
A system that old could have anything from Terri cotta clay, steel, Orangeburg pipes as a drain system all of which almost always fail at some point.
Old leach lines get plugged up over time from floating solids that float pass the tank.
Cig. butts, feminine hygiene items, anything that has not been eaten should never flushed down the toilet.
My biggest pet peeve is people having a garbage disposal when they have a septic system.
Why would you want to fill the tank with undigested solids?
But them in a plastic coffee can and use for compost or toss it out when full. You tank will thank you.
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Old 01-19-2015, 12:52 PM   #6
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OK, thanks for the input Joe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bondo View Post
Ayuh,... The Clean out hole in the picture, looks more like a hole rotted into iron pipe, not a proper clean out,....
Yeah i wondered about that... about a year ago i paid a plumber to come work on a clog i couldnt locate, and that was how he made a 'cleanout' in the pipe. He knocked a hole in it, and then just laid a half piece of pvc loosely over the hole and put the dirt back when he was done. I never knew if that was a legitimate method or not, but i figured it wasn't.

I suppose one of these days i should have someone do it the right way...
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Old 01-19-2015, 03:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tireshark View Post
OK, thanks for the input Joe.



Yeah i wondered about that... about a year ago i paid a plumber to come work on a clog i couldnt locate, and that was how he made a 'cleanout' in the pipe. He knocked a hole in it, and then just laid a half piece of pvc loosely over the hole and put the dirt back when he was done. I never knew if that was a legitimate method or not, but i figured it wasn't.

I suppose one of these days i should have someone do it the right way...
Ayuh,.... Not that I agree with the 'cleanout', it is a normally negative pressure area, 'n it has worked, But,....

This bein' a Diy site, 'n ya got the hole dug,....
Now is the time to dig alittle more, 'n fernco in a y-fittin', for a proper clean out,....
Put a little riser on it, 'n ya won't have to dig as deep next time,....

'n Ya, that appears to be the tank, so ya gotta dig another hole to find the clean out/ manhole in the top of it,....
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Old 01-20-2015, 12:41 PM   #8
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Thanks bondo, yeah ive done some repairs with cast iron and ferncos before so i probably need to go ahead and do it properly while it is open.

Actually that is where the initial clog was... there are actually TWO cleanout holes that plumbers have busted open over the years, and i only had known about the one which is right next to the house. I kept having repeated clogs after i would clear it from the first cleanout hole, and i finally decided to dig up the pipe to see if i could find out why it kept happening.

When i dug it out, i found a second cleanout hole that was again only covered with a loose piece of pvc... a tree root had grown under the loose pvc and had dropped down in the pipe where it grew a mesh of tiny roots that were catching everything and causing the backups.

Here's a pic of both of the 'cleanouts'.

Link.

Obviously i was a little ticked to find another hole in the pipe, a few feet from where i had paid a plumber to knock one in it last year... but i sure was glad to fix the problem so that i would no longer have to crawl face first under the house in raw sewage water to fix the shower drain it kept popping off, haha.

Last edited by tireshark; 01-20-2015 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 01-20-2015, 02:47 PM   #9
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Inside the tank your garden hose should have been directed downward by a baffle into the waste water. Thats why you didn't hear it running.

What is this pipe that is 150ft away? A typical drainfield is underground- not exposed.
Are you sure its part of your system?

You need to address those holes. That is how some drain cleaners make access to get to clogs.
What you need to do is cut out the pipe between the tank and the house, install a 2-way clean out close to the house then put PVC or ABS to the tank.
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Old 01-20-2015, 05:31 PM   #10
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agree with e a real cleanout needs to be installed for proper access to system with electric eel...get one close to house if another one is needed have it installed properly as well .. since it been so long.. have tank pumped and see if it drains proper then...if not will have to have it snaked again..
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Old 01-20-2015, 06:21 PM   #11
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I'm wondering if there is a leach field to begin with. Maybe not. Sounds like maybe the pipe that is "150 feet away" could be a hidden (and unlawful) drain line going nowhere but onto the ground when it works and isn't clogged with vermin or animal nests.
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Old 01-20-2015, 07:50 PM   #12
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Thanks guys, yeah i will probably be installing a proper cleanout where those holes are.

UPDATE:

I decided i should check the outlet line while i am already this deep into it, so i dug out the edge of the septic tank until i found the outlet line that runs out to the ditch.

When i cut a hole in it to inspect, it was full of water!

Pic

I put a garden hose into the cleanout holes on the inlet side of the septic tank, and water immediately flowed out of the hole i had made in the outlet pipe.

So this told me that the outlet line was clogged somewhere, and if im not mistaken it also means that the septic tank is full, since it is draining out of the outlet (right?).

So after about 3 hours and 7 or 8 test holes, i narrowed down the section where i thought the major issue was at. When i dug out that section, i discovered a large tree root that had apparently broken the pipe, and this had caused mud and debris to clog the pipe.

Pic

So at this point, besides getting the tank pumped, i will need to replace some, or all, of the outlet pipe depending on how good i can clean out the existing sections (there was a lot of dried mud caked on the bottom through most of it).

As far as the outlet pipe, it is a 4 inch corrugated black plastic pipe with a green stripe on it. It doesn't look like it has holes in it, but i haven't inspected it closely yet. I guess it was just a straight shot out to the ditch? It looks like they had installed it on rocks though, because there was a ton of small-medium rocks at or under the level where it sits.

Thanks again for all the input, and im all ears if you have more. I'll keep you updated on the progress.
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Old 01-20-2015, 09:18 PM   #13
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So what it looks like you have now is inflow line from house to tank that is bashed full of holes. At the other end, you have a "drain pipe" - also now full of holes. I've never heard of a drain on a septic system. As stated in another post, a septic system is a closed underground system. If the idea was to simply let sewage drain out to a ditch, why would we bother with putting a tank in the middle. If nothing else the tank needs to be pumped and inspected. Up here it's really not that expensive.
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Old 01-20-2015, 09:33 PM   #14
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It's at the top of the septic tank, but yeah im not 100% sure of the outlet pipes intended function... especially since it appears to just be a pipe out to the ditch, without any drainage holes (unless i haven't found the holes yet). Maybe you are supposed to keep an eye on it, and when stuff comes out you know it's time to pump the tank? Haha, i dont know.

Maybe the idea was to have solids stay in the tank, and let the water drain straight out to the ditch, instead of in a drainage field?

Edit: now that i think about it, i did find some crude fingertip sized holes on the bottom half of the pipe at a section that was near the ditch. i thought they were damage from rocks, but maybe they were intentional? to create a low tech drainage field... if that's even feasible? not sure on that, but i might be able to find out more information when i dig up some more of the pipe.

Last edited by tireshark; 01-20-2015 at 09:41 PM.
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Old 01-21-2015, 12:19 PM   #15
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The drain line from the house to the septic tank should not have holes in it. This line carries raw sewage all of which should go into the septic tank.

The drain line from the septic tank to the leach field is normally solid but no harm is done if it has some holes.This carries treated liquid. I am hesitant to use the word "sewage" because "sewage" contains or at least suggests solid content. "Effluent" is the more commonly used word here. The effluent is supposed to soak into the ground at the leach field.

The effluent is not supposed to come to the surface. If you don't have a (formal) leach field and the outlet pipe from the septic tank pours into a ditch, the ditch becomes a sort of degenerate form of leach field; the liquid soaks into the ground there.
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